The United States is, at least in theory, a capitalist, free-market society founded on the concept of fair competition amongst businesses and within industries. To ensure that American businesses, both big and small, have a fair chance to succeed the government sometimes steps in and regulates the marketplace and/or provides oversight to ensure fair dealings. Anti-trust laws, for example, ensure that a single business, or even a conglomeration of businesses, does not monopolize a specific industry or even the marketplace in general. If you are a business owner it is imperative that you have a basic understanding of state and federal anti-trust laws to ensure that your business does not unintentionally run afoul of those laws.
The U.S. federal government passed three very important acts more than a century ago that collectively form the nation’s anti-trust laws, including:
• The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890
• The Clayton Act of 1914
• The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914
Preventing the restraint of interstate and foreign trade was the purpose of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, or SATA. Provisions of SATA make it illegal to enter into a contract, combination, or conspiracy intended to restrain trade as well as to monopolize any part of interstate commerce. Conspiring with a “competitor” to agree on prices for goods or services that, in turn, would result in consumers having to pay a higher price for those goods or services, for example, would likely violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Violating the Act can result in federal criminal charges being filed against you with serious penalties for a conviction.
The Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions that will effectively result in the lessening of competition among business in the same industry or market. Competition is good for the marketplace because it tends to keep the quality of goods and services high and costs low. When several “big fish” band together it can result in the disappearance of competition with resulting higher prices and a lessor quality of service or goods. For instance, imagine if GE, Whirlpool, Maytag, and Frigidaire all got together and formed one large company. They would essentially have the market cornered and would have no incentive to produce better quality appliances going forward. They could also effectively set their own prices for appliances because they would have little competition. The Clayton Act prohibits just that from happening; however, unlike the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Clayton Act only provides civil penalties for a violation.
The Federal Trade Commission Act includes civil legislation that aims to prevent unfair methods of competition in interstate commerce. The federal Trade Commission (FTC), with which most people are familiar, was created as part of the FTC Act. The FTC is the federal agency that investigates alleged violations of federal anti-trust laws and enforces those laws.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense related to a violation of a state or federal anti-trust law it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your legal options and potential defenses.
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